Amazon’s Echo device is generally safe. However, some professionals who work with confidential material recommend that users turn it off when working from home.
Some owners of the device have expressed privacy concerns about the smart home device, also known as Alexa. These concerns are from the possibility of the device to respond to words that sound like prompts.
“Why is it listening for a command when nobody uttered the wake word? The issue likely isn’t that your Echo is always listening,” wrote Katie Conner at CNET. “It’s that similar-sounding wake words keep triggering your Echo speaker, like ‘Lexus,’” she added. “It might be time to assign Alexa a new name,” she went on to say.
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How Echo Devices Work
A nursing home patient in Michigan with the coronavirus asked Alexa on an Amazon Echo device for help before she died, her sister says. https://t.co/9TRh8DQM7c
— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 9, 2020
Fox Business explains that when an Echo device is on, it picks up on words spoken near it. Some users worry that “their devices could be accidentally listening in on confidential conversations.”
“Imagine, then, that you’re a lawyer dealing with a very important case involving dirty money, local politicians, a power utility and three former contestants on The Bachelor,” explained ZDNet contributor Christ Matyszczyk.
“At some point, you utter the word ‘congresswoman,’” he said. “Unbeknownst to you, that may be the moment that Alexa starts to record. You see, the research I mentioned above found that ‘congresswoman’ was one of the words that made Alexa think she was being summoned,” he added.
“Imagine the possible result when Alexa records the details of this call and it mysteriously becomes a New York Post-level scandal: ‘Bachelor contestants and local pols conned Edison out of $50 million,’” Matyszczyk continued.
Amazon’s website recommends users to “take steps to ensure that the security of your Alexa supported device and safe operation of your connected products.”
“If you don’t want Alexa to respond to voice commands (like when you are away from home), turn off microphones on your Alexa supported devices,” the company said in an example.